China extends Taiwan military drills, prompting fears of a new normal

Taiwan - Despite its initial announcement that Chinese maneuvers around Taiwan would end on Sunday, the People's Liberation Army continued their large-scale sea and air drills on Monday, triggering fears that the exercises may herald the beginning of a new normal.

A Chinese military vessel sails off Pingtan Island, one of mainland China's closest point from Taiwan.
A Chinese military vessel sails off Pingtan Island, one of mainland China's closest point from Taiwan.  © HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

China's state television reported that the exercises were focusing on "anti-submarine and sea assault operations."

In announcing the maneuvers to the north, south-west, and east of self-ruled island last Tuesday, China had originally promised their conclusion on Sunday.

No new formal end date has been announced.

US warships transit Taiwan Strait for first time since Pelosi visit
China US warships transit Taiwan Strait for first time since Pelosi visit

In fact, some commentators on Chinese media expressed the view that the military exercises could become routine.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian on Monday said the drills are a "necessary warning" to the United States and Taiwan, describing them as an "entirely reasonable and appropriate" response to their recent "provocations."

He said the tensions were "deliberately" stoked by Washington, with US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveling to Taipei last week in the face of fierce opposition from Beijing.

The Chinese leadership rejects official contacts by other countries with Taipei because it regards the island as part of the mainland. Taiwan, on the other hand, has long seen itself as independent.

Taiwan said its military is responding appropriately

A Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 aircraft lands at Hsinchu Air Base in Taiwan.
A Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 aircraft lands at Hsinchu Air Base in Taiwan.  © REUTERS

Later, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed that China’s military operations were continuing and said the Taiwanese military is responding appropriately.

Taiwanese Lieutenant General Yeh Kuo-hui said that Chinese jet fighters crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait during the past four days had been given immediate radio warnings, while all Chinese warplanes are being closely monitored, in comments during a briefing.

The ministry also refuted disinformation that is spreading online, including reporting by Chinese state media about the intrusion of Chinese navy warships to Taiwan’s territorial waters.

Taiwan receives another US congressional delegation, drawing ire from China
China Taiwan receives another US congressional delegation, drawing ire from China

At least 272 fake news items concerning China’s military drills were detected between August 1 to 8, the ministry said.

Furthermore, several official Taiwanese websites have faced cyberattacks, including the ministry’s website which suffered a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which attempts to make an online service unavailable to users.

Taiwan is also preparing to carry out a scheduled live-fire artillery exercise called Tien Lei Drill, part of ongoing annual Han Kuang exercises, on Tuesday and Thursday in southern Taiwan.

The step comes after the Chinese military practiced not only a naval and air blockade, but also amphibious landing capabilities to launch beach assaults on Taiwan in recent days, according to Chinese media.

Taiwan's military said Chinese aircraft flew 66 sorties on Sunday alone. In the process, 22 jets crossed the Taiwan Strait median line, a demarcation that had mostly been respected in the past. Fourteen Chinese warships were said to have participated, as well.

A Chinese drone was also spotted again on Sunday evening over the outlying Taiwanese island of Kinmen, which is only a few miles from the Chinese coast, the Defense Ministry in Taipei reported.

Until recently, there had been no Chinese overflight of the island since the 1950s.

Other Chinese maneuvers are also planned this week in other waters, including in the north in the Bohai Gulf and Yellow Sea, and in the south in the South China Sea off the coast of Guangdong Province.

Cover photo: HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

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